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  1. ITV Report

NHS documents revealed by Jeremy Corbyn were US negotiators' 'opening position' on UK trade deal

A Government minister has said the documents revealed by Jeremy Corbyn which the Labour leader claimed showed the NHS would be "up for sale" under a Tory Government were US negotiators' “opening position” on a UK trade deal.

Housing Minister Robert Jenrick told ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston that the NHS "is not for sale".

On Wednesday, Mr Corbyn made an unscheduled announcement during a news conference when he flourished 451 pages of official papers which he said covered six rounds of talks between UK and US officials.

The Labour leader claimed the documents - relating to meetings that took place between July 2017 and July 11 of this year - showed the two sides had discussed opening the NHS to American drug companies.

Mr Corbyn added that the talks were at a "very advanced stage" and that on medicine pricing, the two sides had already concluded discussions on lengthening patents (a company's exclusivity to produce a drug).

Mr Corbyn first mentioned the documents during his clash with Mr Johnson on the ITV debate but the papers were censored at the time.

He pointed to the example to the drug Humira - used to treat Crohn's disease and rheumatoid arthritis - which costs the NHS £1,409 a packet while in the US the price was £8,115.

"Longer patents can only mean one thing - more expensive drugs.

"Lives will be put at risk as a result of this," he said.

"We have now got evidence that under Boris Johnson the NHS is on the table and will be up for sale.

"He tried to cover it up in a secret agenda and today it has been exposed."

Speaking on ITV's Peston, Mr Jenrick said his party "couldn't have been clearer, both in our manifesto and in the statements the Prime Minister has made that the NHS is not for sale".

He added that the documents Mr Corbyn had got hold of were only the "opening position of US trade negotiators".

Mr Jenrick added that the Conservatives "have no intention of seeing drug prices rise or US pharmaceutical companies or other major international companies coming in to the NHS".

He added that the announcement - rumoured to have been brought forward by one week - was "a big distraction by Jeremy Corbyn to hide, I'm afraid, his disastrous interview yesterday with Andrew Neil and to obfuscate that their Brexit position is falling apart at the seams".

Mr Corbyn was interviewed by the BBC's Mr Neil on Tuesday and repeatedly refused to apologise to the Jewish community for anti-Semitism in Labour.

On Wednesday, Mr Corbyn said his party "deplores" anti-Semitism and regrets what happened to those who suffered abuse, but again stopped short of an apology.

Speaking on Peston, Mr Jenrick said Mr Corbyn's announcement on Wednesday was simply a scare tactic.

"It's quite sad I think actually that they're using this tactic because it's designed to scare people, particularly vulnerable people who don't want to see privatisation or charging in the NHS, when of course we have absolutely no intention of doing that."

He continued that the Tories "love the NHS, we care about it, it's an incredibly important national institution and we have absolutely no intention of putting it on the table in trade negotiations to come.

"You even saw that I think when Donald Trump was on LBC a few weeks ago when he criticised the Prime Minister and the Government, saying the trade deal would be more limited in scope because of that decision.

"He acknowledged the fact that we had made that decision.

"It's an important one, it's one we entirely stand behind, and if we're lucky enough to be re-elected on December 12 and proceed with those trade negotiations, be in no doubt - and the US shouldn't be under any illusions - the NHS will not be on the table, it's certainly not for sale."

Brexit Party Leader Nigel Farage, who spoke to Mr Trump on his LBC show, told ITV News the US President had told him "to his face" the NHS was not "on the table" in trade talks between the two countries.

"What they would like to do is get access to for their drugs to our market, but do you know something?

"If their drugs are too expensive, we're just not going to buy them.

"No British government would sign up for drugs that were too expensive," he said.

Also on Wednesday, Boris Johnson gave a "cast iron guarantee" the NHS is not up for sale or privatisation.

He said: "I can give you an absolute cast iron guarantee that this is a complete diversion that the NHS under no circumstances will be on the table for negotiation for sale.

"Look at what we are doing with the NHS we are funding it massively."

Mr Johnson added: "We are absolutely resolved that there is no sale of the NHS, no privatisation, the NHS is not on the table in any way."